— Attachment Therapy in the NEWS —
Mercer to Speak at APA on Alternative Psychotherapies
11 MAR 2014
For those who need to earn psychology Continuing Education units, Jean Mercer, PhD, will be presenting a full-day CE workshop on “alternative psychotherapies” at the annual conference of the American Psychological Association, Washington DC, August 2014. Exact times and dates will be available soon.
Ernst on Holding Therapy
8 DEC 2011
Invisible UK has posted their exclusive interview with Edzard Ernst, MD, about Holding Therapy. Ernst has been a leading opponent of quackery in the UK.
Invisible UK has also written an essay on “The Origins of Holding Therapy in the UK,” tracing the beginning back to Martha Welch’s visits to the UK in the 1980s. Her methods were supported by Nikolaas Tinbergen, the famous Oxford ethologist and ornithologist who taught such notables as Richard Dawkins and Desmond Morris. Tingergen and his wife promoted Holding Therapy, i.e. coercive restraint as therapy, as treatment for autism though there was no scientific evidence for its safety and efficacy.
USA-Russia Adoption Treaty
7 SEP 2011 —After a year of negotiations and threats by Russia to end adoptions to Americans, the United States and Russia are set to ratify an adoption treaty, the text of which has not been released to the public. Russia has for many years been concerned about the dozens of Russian adoptees who have been seriously killed and seriously abused by their American adoptive parents. The new treaty is expected to give Russian authorities some ability to track the welfare of adoptees and require better screening of prospective adoptive parents. It may also allow prospective parents to access more information about the background of orphans. Some observers hope that some form of independent monitoring of adoptive families will be put in place that can identify and report abusive practices, such as Attachment Therapy/Parenting and the inappropriate diagnosis of adoptees with “Reactive Attachment Disorder.”
Russia continues to closely watch criminal cases involving the abuse and death of Russian adoptees, such as the current trial of Michael and Nanette Craver who are charged with killing their seven-year-old adoptive son. The Cravers claim the boy suffered from “Reactive Attachment Disorder” which made him injure himself, but a forensic pathologist testified that many of the boy’s wounds could not have been inflicted by the emaciated boy, and that there was evidence the boy had been bound.
- “Pact on adoptions ends a U.S.-Russian dispute,” by Michael Schwirtz, The New York Times, 13 Jul 2011.
“Russia to ban US adoption,” RT News, 5 Mar 2010:
“Inside America's ‘stork market,’” RT News, 16 Mar 2010:
“Another adopted Russian child murdered,” RT News, 3 Mar 2010.
Alaska Adoptive Mother Found Guilty of Child Abuse
24 AUG 2011 — Yesterday, an Anchorage jury found Jessica Beagley, 36, guilty of one count of misdemeanor child abuse (see earlier story). She faces up to US$10,000 in fines and a year in prison for subjecting her small son, 7, to abusive punishments (“hot saucing” and cold showers). Beagley had someone, whose identity has not been reported, film her performing the harsh treatment, for submission to the “Dr. Phil Show.”
The press coverage of this story often expressed sympathy with Beagley for having to deal with a child with the dreaded “Reactive Attachment Disorder” (RAD). Most, if not all, of these media accounts are using an unrecognized definition of RAD which was invented by Attachment Therapists, aka “Attachment Disorder.” (See Slate, where in the spirit of making adopted children appear monsters, the disorder is referred to as “Radical Attachment Disorder.”)
The unrecognized RAD diagnosis attributes a hodge-podge of bad behaviors to adopted children – some normal for certain ages and cultures, some extreme, some scary, some contradictory, and others typical of children who are simply trying to attract attention. Nearly any child could qualify as having RAD under this “wildly inclusive” definition of the disorder. Unfortunately, the unofficial RAD, which is demeaning and demonizing of children, has been widely accepted in many sectors of society, including by child welfare agencies.
Jean Mercer, PhD, has blogged about the bogus “RAD” diagnosis – coining the moniker “MAD” for Misunderstood Attachment Disorder: “A Russian Adoptee, Child Abuse, RAD, and MAD,” by Jean Mercer, PhD, Child Myths, 2011 August 23.
Beagley Trial: “Attachment Disorder” Defense
22 AUG 2011 — Therapist Chantal Cohen testified this week in an Anchorage court on behalf of adoptive mother Jessica Beagley, claiming “RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) kids in particular intuitively find the one button that’s intolerable to you and then they smack it really hard” and that children with this disorder are terrors at home while being well behaved at school.
Beagley, the wife of an Anchorage police officer and mother of six, faces one charge of misdemeanor child abuse after her treatment of son, one of a set of twins the Beagleys adopted from Russia. The abuse was aired on the “Dr. Phil Show” (see below). In that film, Beagley disciplines with hot sauce and cold showers. The prosecution claims Beagley abused her child in order to be featured on television.
Psychologist Stephen Mailloux, who diagnosed the boy with “RAD,” testified that children with this disorder lack empathy and that normal discipline doesn’t work. Therapist Cohen (Alaska Child Trauma Center at Anchorage Community Mental Health Services) testified that Beagley’s son developed “RAD” from living in a Russian orphanage. However, from the press, it appears clear that Cohen did not testify about RAD as defined in the DSM-IV, but rather referred to the unrecognized diagnosis of “Attachment Disorder” favored by Attachment Therapists. This bogus diagnosis consists of a long, laundry list of signs; it suggests that children with this disorder are so horribly problematic that the harsh therapy and parenting methods of Attachment Therapy are justified.
Cohen claims, "I’ve seen a consistent improvement with (the boy) since I started seeing him. I attribute that to the medication and part of that to my work with Mrs. Beagley."
Teachers testify that the boy’s behavior was normal for his age.
Russians disturbed by treatment of adoptee, and decision not to remove him from home.
ABC News story on Beagley case.
Holding Therapy Survivor Tells His Story
22 AUG 2011 — A new blog “Invisible UK” has set out to make the public aware of Holding Therapy in the UK and of a new charity, Child Therapy Action, that opposing this brutal practice. This blog has published a remarkable first-hand account (with audio) of a person who endured Holding Therapy from age 11-13, once a week, for hours at a time. Invisible UK has also written a history of Holding Therapy in the UK. Over the years, Advocates for Children in Therapy has noted that many leaders in the US Attachment Therapy movement, such as Martha Welch, Beth Thomas, Ronald Federici, and Terry Levy, have promoted this practice in the UK.
Russia’s Commissioner of Children’s Rights Speaking Out
22 JULY 2011 — In an RT article of 4 July 2011, Pavel Astakhov, Russia’s presidentially-appointed commissioner of children’s rights, expressed frustrations with a problem that could only be Attachment Therapy as he describes it:
I also believe that the verdict [in the Lechinsky case] was too lenient. Unfortunately, this has become a trend: in half of all criminal cases involving mistreatment of Russian children by US adoptive parents, we are seeing rather lenient punishment, such as probation or release from punishment altogether. I know why this is happening; I’ve figured it out. Certain American psychologists are convinced that all Russian children, former orphans, are hooligans, liars, and at the very least suffer from attachment disorder. According to them, these children became this way while trying to survive in the tough conditions of the state foster-care institutions. And the defense, in these types of trials, makes sure they invite these specialists and experts to issue a testimony and make any corresponding conclusions. This was the case in the Leschinsky trial, and these experts are currently being recruited in the Michael Gizmor case concerning the rape of his 15-year-old adoptive daughter from Russia, Ksenia. This trend must be broken. I hope that this can be done with an international adoption agreement between Russia and the United States, which is expected to finally be signed this month.
Astakhov expects the new treaty with the USA to give Russia grounds to learn about any mistreatment of some 60,000 children adopted by Americans in the last 18 years.
A year earlier, Jean Mercer, PhD, had sent Mr. Astakhov a missive, following the sensational reports of an adoptee, Artyom Savelyev, who was returned to Russia by his adoptive mother by pinning a note on his jacket and putting him alone on an international flight to Moscow:
Dear Mr. Astakhov:
Please excuse my writing to you in my own language, but I have neither the vocabulary nor the keyboard to say what I want to say in Russian.
I want to communicate with you about factors affecting Russian adoptees in the United States. Several years ago I was interviewed on this topic by Konstantin Semin, the television anchor, who was at that time working in the United States.
I regret to say that little has changed since my discussion with Mr. Semin. However, the international reaction to Artyom's situation may offer an opportunity to make some changes. Curiously, there seems to be much more concern expressed about the treatment Artyom received than about physical mistreatment and even murder of adopted children.
In my opinion, a major reason for maltreatment of adopted children in the United States is the circulation in the media of misinformation about child mental health and development. Even the New York Times this morning referred to the idea that Artyom suffered from “reactive detachment disorder”, a non-existent diagnosis; the reporter presumably meant to say “reactive attachment disorder”, although of course there was no evidence that Artyom had received such a diagnosis. Smaller regional newspapers almost daily print mistaken information about “attachment disorders”, much of which they appear to draw from popular commercial Internet sites. Similarly, the “Nightline” program last week apparently got its material from similar sites.
Among the errors promulgated by popular Internet sources are these: 1. That adopted children are very likely to have Reactive Attachment Disorder, and that it is quite easy to diagnose this even in children of age 5 or more. 2. That Reactive Attachment Disorder is characterized by violent, hostile behavior toward caregivers, younger children, and animals. 3. That treatment of behavior disorders in adopted children involves removing the child from the adoptive home and sending him or her to a residential treatment center. 4. That conventional psychologists' and psychiatrists' methods exacerbate adopted children’s problems, and only unconventional treatments can be helpful. Sources of these mistakes, as well as information about a number of children harmed by misunderstanding of Reactive Attachment Disorder, can be seen at www.childrenintherapy.org.
None of these claims are supported by evidence. But one can easily see how beliefs of this type would cause adoptive parents to focus on the child as the cause of any dissatisfaction or trouble in the home, to be seriously frightened by moods or behaviors that might be within the normal range, and to be prepared to separate from the child as part of the solution to any difficulties. One consequence of the belief that the children are dangerous may be for adoptive parents to respond with force to any minor disobedience or misunderstanding. In addition, adoptive parents who are convinced of these beliefs may be reluctant to seek assistance from professionals who reject the ideas, and this may have been the reason why Ms. Hansen did not ask for help even though she apparently needed it.
Regrettably, even highly-respected adoption agencies have in many cases taken on these mistaken beliefs and encourage them or pass them on to prospective adoptive parents. Some state governments have allowed child protective services agencies to train foster and adoptive parents to use methods based on these misunderstandings.
Obviously, it is not the responsibility of Russia to correct mistaken beliefs in the United States. However, the motivation of Americans to adopt Russian children does provide some leverage that may make possible changes that would be beneficial to adopted children from many backgrounds. If Russia were to withhold permission for adoption to the United States until the mass media and the adoption agencies made some efforts to correct the misunderstandings they have created by their acceptance of misinformation, this would be motivating for the adoption groups. If the media and the adoption groups were actually to provide correct information, parents adopting from Russia might be better equipped to behave appropriately toward the children.
I do not, of course, claim that this would solve all the problems, as I believe that for some parents, the adoption situation triggers mental health issues that are not necessarily easy to predict. However, I think it is possible that changing the stories told by newspapers and television could play a serious role in changing adoptive parents’ thinking and behavior.
Thank you for your attention. I would be happy to discuss this further at your convenience.
Jean Mercer, Ph.D.
Attachment Therapist’s Latest Suit Against ACT Dismissed
30 JUNE 2011 — A third attempted SLAPP brought against Advocates for Children in Therapy (ACT), and others, by Virginia psychotherapist Ronald S. Federici was thrown out by a federal judge earlier this year. Now the transcript of the last case is now available.
ACT, our administrative director Linda Rosa, our executive director Larry Sarner, and prominent Attachment Therapy critic Jean Mercer, PhD, were last year forced to deal with a small-claims court lawsuit in Virginia brought by Federici because procedurally there was no simple way to challenge jurisdiction in that venue. (Restraint critic Charly D. Miller was also sued by Federici.) That case was dismissed summarily when Federici was totally unable to show the court any damages. He immediately renewed the case in a regular Virginia court, then dropped it when the defendants challenged Virginia jurisdiction. A few months later, he filed still another suit, more or less on the same grounds, in the same state court, this time adding another critic of Attachment Therapy, Monica Pignotti, PhD, to his list of defendants. This time Federici also alleged the defendants formed a conspiracy among themselves and a dozen or so “John Does.” The lawyer for Drs Pignotti and Mercer removed the case to federal court, where it was finally decided.
Federici had previously filed, along with seven other Attachment Therapists, numerous bogus DMCA takedown demands in an effort to close down the ACT website. ACT fortunately found Project DOD, an ISP that vigorously fights for First Amendment Rights. (See “Mooney & Rad at Black Hat 2010” below.)
A “reputation repair” company in Florida (responding to a Better Business Bureau complaint against them) revealed that it was hired by Federici. The company admitted to being responsible for some of the most vile online flaming of the defendants in Federici’s SLAPP suits. It admitted creating two websites in the names of ACT staff that contained pornographic, religiously bigoted graphics, inflammatory text, and the home address of some ACT staff. The intent clearly was to incite a fatwah on ACT staff and Steve Barrett, whose Quackwatch website contains an essay critical of Attachment Therapy by Shannon-Bridget Maloney.
Meanwhile, Federici has responded with his own unique take on his lawsuit’s final dismissal. In it he repeats the same false statements that characterize the ubiquitous flaming seen in recent years. We normally do not direct our readers to web-content of Attachment Therapists, but we think this is quite telling.
Physical Required for Holding Therapy
29 JUNE 2011 — Jean Mercer, PhD, has blogged on Child Myths about Attachment Therapists at Lake Counseling Center in Ohio who require children to have a physical before entering Holding Therapy. Margie Barbera, LISW-S, and Diane Wakeley, LPCC-S, LICDC, state in their protocol: “…we require participants to pass a physical exam from their medical provider (similar to those given for sports activities) prior to participation.” In other words, the therapists apparently want to know that the child will be able to withstand the physical rigors of Holding Therapy.
In “Gotta Pass the Physical: Child Psychotherapy as a Contact Sport” (June 16, 2011), Mercer writes: “I will bet a large amount of money – even the amount an unconventional practitioner recently sued me for unsuccessfully – that nobody can find me a conventional psychotherapist who has this requirement for treating a child. (Asking for a general medical exam, to make sure there is no physical reason for mood or behavior problems, is not the same thing.)”
ATTACh, the national trade organization of Attachment Therapists, provides Lake Counseling Center’s protocol on their website. While their holding sessions are described as “voluntary” and a “safe environment in which the participants are encouraged to engage one another in the appropriate expression of fear, anger, grief and joy,” two staff are used as “an additional measure of safety” during “holding interventions.”
ACT recommends that physicians who receive a request for such a physical prior to Holding Therapy should contact child protective services.
Capital Murder Case in Pennsylvania
Nathaniel Michael Craver, 7, and his sister Elizabeth, were adopted from Russia in 2003 by Michael and Nanette Craver. Nathaniel died August 25, 2009, from complications from traumatic brain injury coupled with a “severe failure to thrive.” The emaciated child had some 80 wounds to his body, 20 of which were to his head.
The parents currently face capital murder charges but claim that because Michael suffered from “Reactive Attachment Disorder” he was self-injurious and was responsible for his own death. They are asking that the charges against them be dropped. This case has attracted much international interest, especially from Russia.
Psychologist and Attachment Therapist Ronald S. Federici has commented to the press regarding the Craver case that institutionalized orphans can be severely self-injurious, claiming to have been familiar with a case where such a child chewed off his hand. (See commentary regarding this claim on Child Myths blog.)
For more information, see Craver case.
Beware of Other People Posing as “Advocates for Children in Therapy”
We are the One and Only ACT — Since 2002
Some deceptive blogs have started appearing claiming to be by the “true” Advocates for Children in Therapy (ACT), along with pretended links to “childrenintherapy” “advocatesforchildrenintherapy” (using “.com” addresses, whereas our actual web addresses are “.org”). These pretender links actually take the unwary to advertisements or websites promoting the services of Attachment Therapist Ronald Federici.
Federici has also been targeting two other independent websites for harassment. One has a webpage which has been critical of the type of prone restraint that his writings promote. The other is a blog for and by survivors of Attachment Therapy/Parenting called “Search for Survivors.”
Federici recently led a cabal of Attachment Therapists, including Arthur Becker-Weidman, Neil Feinberg, Daniel Hughes, Gregory Keck, Nancy Thomas, Heather Forbes, and David Ziegler making harassing (and baseless) claims of copyright violation against us and others.
Professor Jean Mercer, Chair of the Professional Advisor Board for Advocates for Children in Therapy, has published a new book: Child Development: Myths and Misunderstandings
“This is a superb book by a thoughtful, courageous, and well respected scholar of child development. [This book] is factually accurate, engaging, and well researched. It does an especially good job of unmasking widespread misconceptions about child development and encouraging critical thinking in a domain in which it is often in short supply. I recommend this book highly for child development instructors as well as for intellectually curious laypersons.” – Scott Lilienfeld, PhD
Blogsite for Survivors
A blogsite set up by and for survivors – “A Search for Survivors” – has attracted several young adult survivors of Attachment Therapy/Parenting who have been willing to recount their experiences. These compelling stories, more than anything, should serve to stop this torture of adopted and foster children.
Mooney & Rad at Black Hat 2010
We are Still Here!
A cabal of Attachment Therapists attempted in 2008 and 2009 to use the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) to silence us. For awhile they chased us around the Internet, complaining to web hosters that our fair use of quotations from their publications and presentations were infringements on their copyrights, and demanding that the hosters remove our entire site. Their outrageous misuse of the DMCA did cost us our relationship with our long-time host. Thankfully, we almost immediately found another server (Project DoD) who courageously stood up to the bullying. (In our opinion, bullying is the most used tool in the Attachment Therapist armamentarium – no surprise they try to use it on us.)
Eventually, we (and DoD) called their legal bluff and we’re still here, more determined than ever to expose the abuse that is Attachment Therapy. There is more about the history of this by Project DoD.
For the record, the cabal was led by Ronald Federici of Virginia (assisted by Arthur Becker-Weidman of New York), with the active involvement of Neil Feinberg of Colorado, Daniel Hughes of Pennsylvania (previously Maine), Gregory Keck of Ohio, Nancy Thomas of Colorado, and David Ziegler of Oregon.
Federici had early on claimed to DoD that he anticipated similar take-down demands from Bryan Post and Martha Welch, but those never materialized. Though, in late 2009, we survived the same nonsense from another Attachment Therapist, and Federici’s business colleague, Heather Forbes of Colorado (previously of Florida).